During one of our recent date nights, my husband and I went to see the movie Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s about a group of journalists who answer a want ad in pursuit of a story. Writing the story becomes a journey in being honest with yourself and learning to be vulnerable to experiencing something you didn’t believe possible—true joy, adventure, love and um, time travel (you’ll need to see the movie to understand this part). Despite the surreal bits, the movie is mostly about living in the present instead of getting mired in the past or waiting on the future.
As parents, living in the past can be alluring as you find yourself romanticizing about the life you had pre-child, or reflecting on the many things that you’ve had to get done since. It’s similarly easy to lose yourself in thinking about that future—what’s needed to give your child the best shot at a top notch university, or even just planning and being prepared for all the activities that are on the calendar for the upcoming week. Each takes concentration, and can being a range of emotions from excitement to sheer terror. Regardless of which direction you’re going–whether you’re thinking about the past or planning for the future–doing so takes your mind away from the present. But is living in the present really so dull that we need the distraction?
Our oldest son graduated from kindergarten in June and there was a picnic for the two kindergarten classes at his school to celebrate the occasion. At the picnic they had a ceremony of sorts, where each child was called by name and crossed through a decorated hula-hoop that was turned on its side. It was very informal and the kids thought it was fun to stand up and have people clap for them. It struck me during the picnic how glad I was to be experiencing what I was experiencing right in that moment. I wasn’t thinking about all the activities that had led up to this day in recent weeks or what would come next. I just took it all in and it was pure joy.
I understand that my children will be grown and off on their own before I know it. Time seems to go faster with each passing year so I’m trying my best to experience the present as it happens, to not focus on what happened yesterday or what’s going to happen tomorrow but what’s happening right now, today.
How do you live in the present?